White Paper on e-Learning - University of North Carolina

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The University of North Carolina
White Paper on e-Learning
July 21, 2003
Many of the campuses of the University of North Carolina have made major strides in
providing access to citizens of North Carolina through distance education and e-Learning.
While many of the programs initially extended the face-to-face delivery system to new
sites at community colleges and other locations across the State, even these programs
were supported by the new technologies, which allow access to course material online.
Other programs have been developed in a blended mode, with some work face-to-face at
a distance and other work and interaction Internet based. Another variant is the use of
teleconferencing to a site or sites around the State. Still other programs have developed
fully online courses and degree programs. While each of these approaches and other
mixes of delivery modes will be part of UNC’s strategy for extending access, fully
electronically based access will play a larger and larger role in extending the resources of
the University of North Carolina to citizens wherever they are located in the State. We
expect there will also be a significant number of programs that are predominantly
electronically delivered with a limited but required face-to-face component. To
successfully develop these alternatives for their fullest use, many issues need to be
addressed. This paper attempts to delineate these issues.
UNC is very close to being in a position to initiate major new steps in e-Learning. Those
steps would be to identify the availability of a select number of bachelor’s (in
coordination with community colleges) and master’s degrees that would essentially be
fully online and to assure that they could be fully supported. Any degree may have some
non-online elements such as proctored exams, clinical experiences, etc., but an
electronically available degree would mean that almost all the work could be done by the
students in their home community and that the non-online components would be
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available locally or with only a small number of visits to a site away from their home
community. Good practice requires the identification of all those elements at the outset
so students can decide and plan accordingly. Online programs are directed primarily to
providing access at the baccalaureate and master’s level for those who may not have
other options for continuing their education.
Baccalaureate Level
Cooperative Program with Community Colleges
At the baccalaureate level, UNC would expect to cooperate with community colleges to
identify and offer a select number of degrees online. The main components would be the
courses appropriate for the first two years, mainly general education courses and
prerequisites for majors, courses in majors, and elective courses for satisfying all the
requirements for a baccalaureate degree. The rule of thumb would be for community
colleges to offer the first two years and UNC to offer the second two years with a focus
on majors and electives. This would require joint agreements for degree programs and
for student support, as well as a set of standards for various aspects of the degree
offerings. Many undergraduate online courses require proctored testing. Community
colleges and universities would need to explore making their testing facilities available
for online students on a systematic basis with an appropriate fee structure.
NCCCS Online Learning at the Associate Degree Level
Colleges within the North Carolina Community College System have collaborated to
form the Virtual Learning Community, or VLC. The VLC’s purpose is to develop highquality distance education courses using internet-based delivery methods. The
collaborating colleges create courses that remain the intellectual property of the NCCCS,
and do not belong to an individual or to a college. The courses are developed by veteran
instructors who are given either monetary incentives or release time. The Virtual
Learning Community benefits smaller colleges, which might not have the resources to
develop the range of courses currently in the VLC library. There are 109 courses in the
VLC library, with another 45 being deployed in the summer of 2003.
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In addition to these internet-based courses, the NCCCS provides distance education
courses using a variety of other delivery techniques. The required infrastructure is in
place to deliver courses via the Internet, by asynchronous video, interactive video, and
satellite downlink.
The North Carolina Community College System has experienced astonishing growth in
the demand for distance education classes. There were 75,415 distance education
registrations in 2001-2002, up from 50,916 in 2000-2001, an increase of 48%, which was
up from 35,587 in 1999-2000, for a growth rate of 43%. There are currently 16 separate
degrees and degree concentrations available from a number of colleges.
Since many of the recipients of these degrees desire to transfer to senior institutions
within the state of North Carolina, a cooperative program between NCCCS and UNC
would be of great benefit to transfer students in North Carolina.
Proposed Degrees at the Baccalaureate Level
The initial proposal is for five degrees or degree areas. This list could be slightly shorter
to start with and one could expect over time for a few more programs to be added. Five
areas would give students a reasonable range of choice without overtaxing the system in
the initial stages. It would be wise to show the planned availability of several degrees
that would appeal to a wide range of students and be directed at State needs, especially
those identified as critical. The schedule for rollout could reduce the effort needed
immediately. NCCCS and UNC could announce a package of five or so degrees with the
start-up dates staggered, offering one or two the first year, three or four the second year,
and so on.
The five proposed initial degree areas are:
Health Area, especially Nursing
Teacher Education
Information Technology
Business
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Liberal Arts (Humanities or Social Sciences, or interdisciplinary)
The first four of these would respond to identified state needs and the interests of students
in studying in these areas. The fifth would respond to students seeking a broader
educational experience, and this degree could also provide electives for the other
programs. UNC campuses have in place several programs that will fit well with these
curriculum areas.
These programs should be well developed and in place along with all the supporting
mechanisms before we publicly market the overall program. UNC has great credibility in
this arena, since it has not announced any initiatives from which it has had to backtrack
as many other systems and universities have. These e-Learning programs would be the
front pieces for a wider spectrum of access initiatives ranging from face-to-face programs
at remote sites to blended programs that would be a mix of online and face-to-face
activities, and ranging from degree programs to certificate programs. The core idea
would be to offer a wide range of programs with a clear statement of what delivery
methods are involved in the courses and the degrees. All this will be part of an ongoing
process to educate students and the public about what to expect as they choose courses
and degrees that take advantage of new educational delivery technologies. But the
dramatic lead would be a select set of fully online degree programs at the undergraduate
and graduate levels.
There are programs available electronically from our campuses, for example, which
would fit under each of these categories. This is provided for illustrative purposes and
does not indicate that any of the necessary steps have been take to assure that each
campus wants to participate, that there is support for significantly increasing the number
of students in the programs, or that the articulation with the community colleges is in
place, etc. In almost all instances these are upper division completion programs.
Health Area, especially Nursing
RN to BSN--ECU
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RN to BSN—UNC CH
RN to BSN--UNCC and UNCW (Joint)
BS Health Information Management--ECU
BS Health Services Management--ECU
BS Occupational Safety and Health--NCA&TSU
BS Emergency Medical Care--WCU
BS Clinical Laboratory Science--WSSU
Teacher Education
BS B-K Teacher Education (fall 2003)--ECU
BS Agricultural Education—NCA&TSU
BS Business Education--NCA&TSU
BS Elementary Education--UNCW
BS Education of Young Children--UNCW
Information Technology
BS Computer Engineering Technology—ECU
BS Industrial Technology—ECU
BSBE Information Technology—ECU
BS Electronic Technology--NCA&TSU
BS Engineering Technologies--UNCC
BS Engineering Technologies (Fire Safety)--UNCC
Business
BS Business Administration—UNCG
BS Business Administration—UNCP
BS Business Administration—WSSU
Liberal Arts (Humanities or Social Sciences, or interdisciplinary)
BS Criminal Justice--NCCU
BS Criminal Justice--UNCW
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BS Criminal Justice--WCU
Master’s Level and Advanced Continuing Education
There is an obvious overlap between master’s level work and advanced continuing
education. Careful planning in the development of courses for master’s programs will
result in subsets of the courses that can be used for credit certificate programs as well as
for non-credit offerings. E-Learning at the master’s level is progressing faster than at the
baccalaureate level. UNC campuses have several successful examples of online master’s
degrees, and others are in development. While some programs may be entirely online,
others may require some small number of class meetings or a meeting at the beginning of
the term. Clinical courses will require local supervision. Community colleges could also
play a role by providing sites for these meetings, and in some instances some of their
faculty or adjunct faculty might be available to provide clinical oversight. At this point
we have the following candidates from our campuses:
Health Area, especially Nursing
MSN Nursing Education--ECU
MSN Nursing Education--UNCG
MS Speech-Language Pathology--ECU
MS Nutrition--ECU
MS Occupational Safety (Health and Industrial Hygiene)--ECU
MPH/MHA Public Health--UNC CH
Teacher Education
MA Educational Media—ASU
MAEd Art Education—ECU
MS Technical Teacher Education—ECU
MS Vocational Education (Information Technology)—ECU
MAEd Special Education—ECU
MAEd Instructional Media Design—ECU
MAEd Health Teacher Education—ECU
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MS Instructional Technology--NCA&TSU
MS Technology Education--NCA&TSU
Information Technology, Engineering
MLS Library Science--ECU
MLS Library Science--NCCU
MS Industrial Technology--ECU
M in Engineering—NCSU
M in Computer Science—NCSU
MS Chemical Engineering—NCSU
M in Civil Engineering—NCSU
MS in Mechanical Engineering—NCSU
MS in Aerospace Engineering—NCSU
Business
MPM Project Management--WCU
Liberal Arts (Humanities or Social Sciences, or interdisciplinary)
MS Criminal Justice—ECU
MA English—ECU
As with baccalaureate programs, online master’s programs may include some activities
such as a proctored exam, an internship, or a lab experience that will require the student
to have some traditional interactions, but for the most part these can be arranged locally
for the student. The key, of course, is to clearly spell out the full range of activities
needed to complete the course of study. Demand could accelerate in this area if we
provide the right mix of master’s programs and the ability for the individual to pursue a
degree while continuing employment. Many degree and non-degree certificates may
have a wide audience as well. A proven strategy is to nest certificate credit programs so a
student can continue toward a degree. We will have a growing access problem at the
master’s level and this will be an effective way to address it. Master’s programs will be
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of particular interest for students seeking opportunities to teach at the community college
level.
Resident Students
Once online courses and degree programs become available for distance students,
resident students will seek to participate in those programs. Any long-range strategy
must address this reality. Students can get courses not available otherwise, can take
courses from home in the summer, can supplement their schedule when studying abroad,
can choose this option for convenience, or can get a different set of experiences working
online. For these and other reasons, we should welcome resident students’ desire to
participate in online learning. Some campuses will develop online courses for resident
students as a necessary part of their education for the world they will work in. Our
tuition and fee policies are of particular concern for efficient access to all the online
courses and programs available on the campuses.
Many of our campus are involved with on campus initiatives to integrate the new
technologies into the face-to-face learning environment. The recently released report by
the Business-Higher Education Forum, Building a Nation of Learners, which grew out of
the Learning and Technology Initiative co-chaired by Molly Corbett Broad and Sean C.
Rush makes it clear that technology is a necessary component in the transformation of
education to meet the nation’s needs for college educated citizens. The document reports
that, “the most successful education models are those that blend the best aspects of both
the traditional classroom and technology innovation,” and that, “the greatest benefits of
technological innovation…are not the cost savings but the learning gains.”
Other Sources of Students
Many businesses are recognizing the need for continuing education and must either
develop corporate educational facilities internally or contract for those services.
University-wide collaboration could make UNC an attractive source for providing such
corporate education. There is strong interest in UNC degrees out of state and
internationally. While UNC’s primary mission is to serve the citizens of North Carolina,
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when courses and degrees are available online there may be a way to offer them to outof-state students and companies that will generate a revenue stream to support the overall
e-Learning initiative. This is an area for exploration since many studies have
documented the need for expanding online learning for students around the world.
Quality Issues and e-Learning
UNC institutions pride themselves on offering quality education at every level. Any
large scale movement to e-Learning will need to assure the presence of that same quality
in instruction and learning whatever the mode of delivery. Evidence is beginning to
emerge that student involvement and the quality of learning can be just as high, and in
some cases, higher than in some traditional modes of educational delivery.
Collaboration among Campuses
A single campus with adequate funds and the requisite commitment can successfully
mount these degree programs. However, two or more campuses can also offer them in a
collaborative arrangement. As these offerings become more extensive both at the
undergraduate and graduate level, there will need to be careful consideration of UNC’s
requirement for no unnecessary duplication. Every campus, for example, need not offer
all the electives needed to complete a program if electives are online from another
campus. A number of issues will need to be addressed to make such collaboration an
effective way to proceed. The Board of Governors at its April 2003 meeting approved a
policy that provides for the awarding of degrees jointly between two or more campuses,
with each institution’s name on the diploma. This likely will make the development of
collaborative efforts more appealing. Many other issues will need to be addressed to
make collaborative activities work smoothly and efficiently for both faculty and students.
Why Should Campuses Collaborate?

To provide broader access to higher education in North Carolina

To leverage resources

To provide a seamless path from CC to UNC degrees

To take advantage of distinguished faculty anywhere in the system
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
To benefit from the investment in the development of high-quality teaching
modules

To leverage UNC-OP’s continuing investment in e-Learning

To accommodate enrollment growth

To provide a pipeline for graduate programs

To address diversity issues

To build programs and capacity for expanding existing programs

To build alumni support

To support economic development and partner with local businesses

To leverage coordinated marketing

To participate in collaborative grant opportunities
Coordinating Mechanism
For online learning to be fully successful, there will need to be a coordinating function.
This entity would organize degree offerings, explore market need, and perhaps provide
funding for starting degree or certificate programs. This coordinating entity could range
from a University-wide committee to a structure with a small staff to facilitate and
coordinate the offering of courses and degrees in an online format. Its most effective
function might be marketing in the broader sense of making what is available in UNC
known to potential students, locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. It is clear
that all degrees offered will be through the campuses so any coordinating function would
work only to connect students and campus programs.
Supporting These Initiatives
To successfully launch such an effort and particularly to publicly commit to marketing
this direction, many supporting mechanisms must be in place, and many policies and
practices will need to be reviewed and possibly changed in order to mesh with the new
initiative. The list includes the following:

Block tuition (resident credit) vs. by student credit hour tuition (distance credit)

Fees for distance and online students
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
Develop payment model for multi-campus involvement

Review State funding model for multi-campus involvement

Rethink the issue of distance vs. online students

Articulation with the community colleges and the NCCCS

Address admission process for taking one or two courses from another campus

Address tuition and fees when students are enrolled at two or more campuses

Campus registration and cashier processes

Technology infrastructure

Help Desk infrastructure

Faculty development for using new technologies; coordination with TLT network;
coordination with campus-based teaching centers

Adjustments to faculty assignment and reward system; faculty workload issues

Establish standards of good and best practices

Adopt SCORM or SCORM-like standards for course development

Establish set of definitions for data collection, especially for method of delivery

Define library access for students and programs

Identify mode of access: portal, CFNC, etc.

Policies regarding on-campus residency requirements for degrees

Policies on number of courses that are allowed to be transferred into a degree
program

Start and ending schedule for online courses; campus calendar

Develop a central coordinating/brokering agency

Align OP resources for online learning with goals of project
Decentralized vs. Centralized Activity
While online courses, certificates, and degrees will be offered by the individual campus
or by consortia of campuses offering a joint degree, attention needs to be devoted to the
level at which various support services will occur, and the level at which issues or
problems will be addressed and solved.
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Organization of an Initiative from the Office of the President
An initiative in electronic teaching and learning, while centrally involving Academic
Affairs, Information Resources, and Finance, will likely involve every division of the
Office of the President. Any successful initiative will require major involvement of
campuses and their representation on working groups. There needs to be a driver in the
Office of the President, for the UNC part of the initiative, not to settle the issues, but to
organize the effort, identify committees and work groups that need to be formed, to be
responsible for getting substantive matters to the right channels and groups, to establish
time lines for each project, and to provide regular reports on progress of working groups.
At the same time, there will need to be a University-wide committee to oversee and foster
this development and a number of ad hoc committees to address special issues.
Joint Initiative with the Community Colleges
UNC and NCCCS are working together to establish a joint initiative to reach an
agreement on seamless undergraduate online degrees and to identify the issues that need
to be addressed to make this possible.
Steps to be Taken within UNC

Form a UNC-OP steering committee and a University wide policy group for
implementing the e-learning initiative

Re-initiate the OP steering committee to articulate a set of goals for the initiative
for ratification by the University-wide policy group

Identify campuses interested in working on proving the concept at the
baccalaureate and graduate levels

Organize issues, questions, problems, and the supporting mechanisms; identify
working groups to propose solutions, approaches, and recommendations for
implementation; align responsibility for coordinating these workgroups with
members of the steering committee

The OP Steering committee would be responsible for taking proposed directions,
solutions, implementation plans to appropriate policy channels for advice and
approval
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
Identify specific actions to be completed in first year
Steps to be Taken Jointly by UNC and NCCCS

Joint steering group for establishing the initiative and monitoring its progress

Identification of degree programs to include initially

Identify issues for the Transfer Advisory Committee

Agree on standards for courses, support, proctoring tests, etc.

Address issue of joint funding through grants, contracts, or State appropriations
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